MLB Spring Training 2012: Each Team's Dream or Nightmare Performer This Spring

Mark MillerCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2012

MLB Spring Training 2012: Each Team's Dream or Nightmare Performer This Spring

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    With the 2012 season technically underway, teams are making their final preparations for the quickly approaching season and will be making the last cuts before finalizing rosters in the coming days.

    There are a number of players who have impressed enough to earn spots on rosters, while others may have actually played their way off rosters with poor performances this spring.

    It's hard to read too much into spring statistics, as they can often times be misleading and don't translate to regular-season performances, but with the excitement of the season that's upon us, it's hard not to draw our own conclusions.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Joe Saunders

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    At one point this past offseason, it appeared as though Joe Saunders' days in Arizona may be over.

    But after non-tendering the starting pitcher, the Diamondbacks eventually worked out a deal for his return.

    He's disappointed this spring, however, going 0-2 with an ERA approaching 10.00 in four starts, making for two consecutive springs with a WHIP over 2.30.

Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones

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    In what will be his final season with the Atlanta Braves, Chipper Jones has gotten off to a bit of a rough start this spring.

    Batting only .200 in 10 games, Jones drove in only one run before having to undergo arthroscopic surgery to clean up his knee.

    He's expected to return for the home opener but has missed valuable time to get in baseball shape for what will be a long farewell tour through a 162-game schedule.

Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz

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    After a disastrous 2011 season, no one was happier to turn the page to 2012 than Baltimore Orioles' pitcher Brian Matusz.

    He's gotten off to a strong start this spring, going 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in five starts. He's striking out nearly a batter an inning, while walking only two in 20 innings pitched.

Boston Red Sox: Josh Beckett

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    With questions surrounding parts of the Boston Red Sox pitching rotation this spring, it looks like Josh Beckett is playing about as well as any other pitcher around.

    He's gone 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in six starts this spring, and while he's walked almost as many batters as he's struck out, he still looks primed for a strong 2012 campaign.

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo

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    When the Chicago Cubs traded for Anthony Rizzo this offseason, many wondered if the player who had so much potential would show up or if his struggles from 2011 would carry over into Cubs' camp.

    He's played well with the Cubs this spring, batting .364 with a .968 OPS in 14 games. Having recently been sent down, he'll start the season in the minors but looks like he could be ready for more major league at-bats sooner than anticipated.

Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn

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    There were very high hopes for Adam Dunn heading into the 2011 season, but after a relatively strong spring training (3HR, 7RBI, 11BB in 21 games), he failed to pan out at all, struggling his way through the worst season of his career.

    He's had an even better spring this time around, with four home runs, 12 RBI and a 1.049 OPS in 15 games played in 2012.

    Let's just hope, this year, it actually translates to some regular-season productivity.

Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Madson

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    The Cincinnati Reds' biggest offseason free-agent signing was none other than Ryan Madson, brought in to become a viable late-inning option as the team's closer.

    Those plans were quickly derailed in Cincinnati, as Madson tore his ulnar collateral ligament, meaning Tommy John surgery will sideline him for the entire 2012 season.

Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez

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    In the midst of a very impressive 2011 season, the Cleveland Indians pulled off a trade that surprised many, acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline in an effort to catapult them into the driver's seat in the AL Central.

    Jimenez's performance wasn't enough, as they'd ultimately come up short in the division, with the Tigers leading the pack.

    He's struggled to a 1-4 record and 6.27 ERA this spring, and while his strikeout numbers may be down (and walk numbers up), there's still plenty of time for him to work out any kinks between now and Opening Day.

Colorado Rockies: Drew Pomeranz

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    As one of the centerpieces of last year's trade of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Colorado Rockies have a great pitching prospect in camp as Drew Pomeranz toes the rubber.

    He's turned a few heads this spring, going 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in four starts, striking out nine batters in 11 innings pitched.

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera

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    I guess you could call the spring of Miguel Cabrera both a nightmare and a dream.

    On the bright side, he's batted .433 in 13 games this spring with an OPS north of 1.100. But, a ground ball that caught him the wrong way in the hot corner proved to be too much for him as he'd suffer a fracture just below his right eye.

    Luckily, he's been cleared to return to the field less than 10 days after the incident and shouldn't miss a beat as he readies himself to terrorize AL Central pitching.

Houston Astros: Jack Cust

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    The Houston Astros didn't do much in the way of maneuvering for short-term success this offseason, as any rebuilding process typically doesn't have any quick fixes.

    They did however make a move to sign Jack Cust in hopes that he could return to the player he was in Oakland, when he averaged 24 home runs a year in his four seasons with the Athletics.

    Those plans didn't pan out for Cust or the Astros, as he notched only one hit in 11 games this spring, striking out eight times.

    Cust has since been released.

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez

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    The Kansas City Royals didn't have too much of a chance to see what Salvador Perez had to offer last season, but when they did see him play, he made it count.

    In 39 games with the Royals, Perez batted .331, driving in 21 runs in 148 at-bats and leading the Royals to believe their catcher of the future may be ready for a permanent role in the bigs.

    Those plans have since been put on hold, as surgery to repair a torn meniscus will sideline Perez for a few months.

Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols

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    Fans of the Los Angeles Angels were flying high in December as they watched their team make blockbuster move after blockbuster move and suddenly vault themselves into the early World Series discussions for 2012.

    Albert Pujols was the gem of the free-agent class, so there's little he could do to disappoint in spring training, but either way he's lived up to expectations.

    With four home runs and 11 RBI in 17 games this spring, he's batting .333 and is poised to have another MVP-caliber season in 2012.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier

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    With a new ownership group set in place, things are finally looking more stable in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers will likely look to secure assets as they regain their footing in the baseball world.

    One player who's staring free agency in the eyes is Andre Ethier, who could leave after 2012, and may see his stock vault with a strong season.

    So far this spring, he's sure playing like a player in a contract year, batting .421 in 15 games with the Dodgers and an OPS north of 1.400.

Miami Marlins: Heath Bell

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    As part of the revamped Miami Marlins lineup that's set to take the field in their new digs in the coming weeks, Heath Bell is slated to be the team's late-inning anchor, closing the door on NL East lineups night in and night out.

    He's only saved one game thus far in spring training but has yet to allow a run in his six appearances and is striking out batters a a clip better than one per inning.

Milwaukee Brewers: Norichika Aoki

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    After seeing the way some international prospects have failed to pan out in Major League Baseball, you couldn't blame Milwaukee Brewers fans if they showed signs of resistance upon learning the team had signed Norichika Aoki.

    He's been a pleasant surprise for those individuals this spring, batting .327 in 20 games this spring, while driving in eight runs and striking out only four times in 50 at-bats.

Minnesota Twins: Luke Hughes

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    After seeing the much hyped Tsuyoshi Nishioka fizzle out throughout the 2011 season, he was given a clean slate by some in 2012 but has since been demoted to class Tripla-A Rochester.

    Luckily for Twins' fans, Luke Hughes looks poised to step into an important role for the team, as he continued his 2011 successes this spring, batting .364 with an OPS well over 1.000, thanks to four home runs and 15 RBI in 17 games.

New York Mets: Johan Santana

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    After missing all of last season, Johan Santana will look to return to form in 2012 with the New York Mets, and he's showing some signs of recovery already.

    His walk numbers this spring aren't quite as high as could be expected from a pitcher with the stuff Santana has, but as he works his way back and refines his mechanics once again, he should once again be a highly effective option for the Mets.

New York Yankees: Joba Chamberlain

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    Joba Chamberlain was having himself a respectable spring training this year, when a trampoline got in the way of his plans for the season.

    With a currently immobilized foot, it looks like Chamberlain won't be returning to the mound until July, though he'll no doubt be determined to do everything in his power to return from the embarrassing accident as soon as possible.

Oakland Athletics: Grant Balfour

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    With Grant Balfour sliding into the closer role in 2012, there's no doubt increased expectations following the Australian reliever who has 10 career saves to his name.

    This spring, he's found some struggles on the mound, walking as many batters as he's struck out en route to an ERA creeping up around 8.00.

Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley

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    Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is no doubt a crucial part of the team's plans to contend for a World Series title in 2012, so his absence is surely something casting a cloud over the situation.

    With Utley missing all of spring training this season and no real timetable set for his return, there are certainly more questions than answers regarding Utley's future.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez

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    After struggling through 74 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, no doubt, there was increased pressure on Pedro Alvarez to perform this year.

    So far this spring, he's failed to turn any heads, batting only .135 in 15 games, striking out in nearly half of his at-bats.

San Diego Padres: Cameron Maybin

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    With Carlos Quentin set to play a big role in the San Diego Padres' offense in 2012, there's additional pressure on the rest of the team to step up as well as the team looks to piece together the most competitive roster possible.

    Cameron Maybin will be one of those important contributors for the Padres this season, which is why he'll no doubt look to improve on the .213 batting average and slightly inflated strikeout numbers he's put up this spring.

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt

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    With Brandon Belt vying for playing time in 2012, it was certainly important for him to showcase his talents this spring as he looks to parlay it into regular-season success.

    He's gotten off to a hot start in this important spring training, batting .370 in 18 games with 11 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

    His eight extra-base hits have helped him to a 1.046 OPS and .630 slugging percentage that the team could certainly use if he can keep it up.

Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins

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    In what has been a disappointment from the start of his contract with the Seattle Mariners, things haven't gotten any better this spring for Chone Figgin as he's batting only .214 in 10 games this spring. If you can believe it—that's actually an improvement from last year.

    2011 was his worst season, as he batted only .188 in 81 games for the Mariners, while posting on-base percentage and slugging percentages of .250.

St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright

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    Having not made a start for the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010, there's certainly pressure to return to All-Star form for the World Champions in 2012, and based on his spring performance, he may be up to the challenge.

    He's currently 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA this spring and has given up only six free passes in 19 innings pitched.

Tampa Bay Rays: Carlos Pena

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    In his second stint with the Tampa Bay Rays, Carlos Pena will looks to improve on his last season with the team, when he failed to bat .200 in 2010.

    After a strong offensive campaign with the Chicago Cubs in 2011, Pena has bated only .131 this spring and has only driven in one run in his 15 games played.

Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton

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    Between the off-the-field issues surrounding Josh Hamilton this offseason and the contract situation that will no doubt be magnified this season, there's plenty of questions surrounding the Texas Rangers' slugger.

    He's off to a bit of a rough start this spring, with no home runs and only a handful of RBI to his name in 17 games.

Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Lawrie

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    The Toronto Blue Jays have a great prospect on their hands in Brett Lawrie, and if they can get him to hold up some consistency throughout this season, they may be in the midst of a star.

    Lawrie is batting nearly .600 through a dozen games during spring training and is set to enter the season as the team's starting third baseman.

Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman

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    Singing a mega-contract extension obviously has lofty expectations that come along with it, and Ryan Zimmerman appears to be doing his best to make sure he's worth every penny with his strong spring outings.

    As we clearly know by now, spring training records, statistics and outings in general don't always paint the clearest picture of what will happen throughout a 162-game season.

    If nothing else, following players' performances during the spring ensures a level of expectations can be set for the upcoming season—if they haven't been already.